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Minnesota Senate race goes negative. Again

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Barkley, Franken, Coleman
U.S. Senate candidates Dean Barkley, Al Franken and Norm Coleman.
MPR Photo

As he campaigned at several locations around the state Saturday, Norm Coleman lashed out at his Democratic challenger Al Franken, accusing Franken of orchestrating allegations that a Coleman supporter tried to illegally funnel money to the Senator.   

Taking a brief break from his own campaigning, Franken called a news conference to say he had nothing to do with the allegations that first surfaced in a lawsuit filed this week in Texas.

Al & Franni Franken
DFL Senate candidate Al Franken, with his wife Franni in the background, speaks to reporters today during a news conference in St. Paul. Franken was traveling across the state in the final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday's election
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

At a campaign stop in Rosemount Coleman told reporters the charges contained in the civil suit are false, and said Franken and other Democrats are  waging a sleazy 11th hour attack on his family.

"The issue is that allegations are made about my wife that are not true," he said.  "And the Democratic Senatorial committee, which is putting $4 million into this race, has an ad up the day that complaint is filed, has an ad up attacking my wife.  I think that's slimey politics, I think Minnesotans are going to reject this."

Coleman released an ad that seemed to break his earlier pledge to reject negative advertising. The ad shows Coleman sitting on a couch with his wife Laurie. 

"This time Al Franken's crossed the line," he says in the commercial. "My name's on the ballot, I'm fair game for his ugly smears. My wife and family are not.  In Minnesota, this is as dirty as it gets. I'm Norm Coleman and I approve this message because there's got to be a better way."

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At his news conference Franken said he had nothing to do with the allegations. He said he knew nothing about the lawsuit and finds it unbelievable that Coleman is trying to turn the allegations around on him.

"For Norm Coleman to try to deflect attention from this incredibly serious matter by attacking me with false claims is simply insulting to voters who have a right to know the facts before the election," Franken said.

The lawsuit filed in Texas this week alleges that Coleman friend and campaign donor Nasser Kazeminy used a Texas business to divert $75,000 to a company where Coleman's wife works, as a way to get money to Coleman.

MPR's attempts to reach Kazeminy Saturday were unsuccessful. 

Paul McKim, founder and former CEO of Houston-based Deep Marine Technology, claims that Kazeminy, a large shareholder, pressured the company to make payments to Minneapolis-based Hays Companies, which employs Laurie Coleman, who is a licensed insurance broker.

The Hays Companies released a statement Friday calling the lawsuit libelous and defamatory. It said the campany finds any allegations that Laurie Coleman accepted money for work she was not responsible for to be outrageous and contemptible.         The Star Tribune reported late Friday that a second lawsuit had been filed in Delaware Chancery Court against Kazeminy making allegations similar to those in the Texas lawsuit. 

Dean Barkley
Independence Party U.S. Senate candidate Dean Barkley speaks to reporters and voters outside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul today.
MPR Photo/Jess Mador

The paper reported that the lawsuit was filed by Deep Marine shareholders, and named McKim as a co-defendant. The plaintiffs' attorney did not immediately respond to an e-mail Saturday from The Associated Press, and the firm's phone rang unanswered.

Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley was also campaigning Saturday at the University of Minnesota homecoming parade in Minneapolis and later in the day outside the Xcel Center in St. Paul. 

Barkley said he was content to let Coleman and Franken attack each other.

"Let them do their things," he said.  "I'm just concerned about letting people know what their alternative is, and that they do have a choice in this campaign; and to think hard when they go into the polls on Tuesday as to who they want to represent them."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)